Voice SEO - the worst investment your brand will make

Some of today's top digital marketing and SEO experts have been pushing a significant amount of discussion around Voice Search SEO or just Voice SEO. Consultants and agencies abound are providing "voice search optimization" services and driving businesses to spend significant resources refactoring websites, rewriting blog content, and more all under the notion of building an online presence optimized for Voice. I'm here to tell you it's all bullshit and it's the worst investment you could make related to your voice strategy*. Before you start the mud throwing, hear me out.

Before we dive into WHY it's the worst investment you'll make related to your voice strategy, let's first cover some of the basics.

What the heck is the Voice part of Voice Search SEO?

Voice, in the context of Voice Search, refers to the voice technology behind your favorite voice assistants - be it Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri - and your interaction with your devices using just your voice.

Voice Technology - or just Voice - can be found in everything today. You will find your favorite voice assistant in smart phones, smart speakers, smart TVs, appliances, headphones, and automobiles. If it's got a chip in it, odds are you'll find one with a voice assistant available to make things easier, more convenient, and more accessible.

What is Voice Search?

Voice Search, which I actually feel would be more accurately described as "Voice Asking," refers to you speaking to your favorite device and asking for something. Whether it's for a new recipe, a new restaurant, or a new destination. From turning on your favorite show on Netflix to checking if Amazon has your favorite Chi tea in stock - most of your interactions with voice devices fall under Voice Search.

One thing you'll notice, as you switch from talking to Siri on your phone to Alexa in your kitchen, is the same question, or search, can result in very different results. Siri, while very capable, decides what it understood you asked for and then what it's response to your query is going to be very differently than Alexa will. Throw Google Assistant into the mix and now you're facing, potentially, three very different results to the same question.

There are many reasons why one voice assistant will respond differently to the same question as another. The real takeaway here, for our purposes at the moment, however, is that the results ARE different. Some will say "Duh! Of course they're different. Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Google all return different results - it's the difference in the algorithm." But I'm going to challenge you not to write it off as just a difference in the algorithm because there's something more important than that going on here.

The Artificial Intelligence, or AI, providers of your favorite voice assistant - Apple, Amazon, and Google - all have different agendas when it comes to Voice. Apple's agenda may be to evolve a smarter AI, Amazon may be focused on e-commerce and driving sales, and Google may be focused on learning more about you so it can drive more relevant results (and ads) when you do your web searches. The specifics of the differing motivations, just like the reasons we are getting different results, is actual also irrelevant for our purposes. So what IS relevant? What is the point? That's the punchline so let's hold on that for a quick second. First, let's look at the next part of our learnings - Voice Search SEO.

What is Voice Search SEO?

Voice Search SEO, or just Voice SEO, as defined by neilpatel.com, is "the practice of optimizing your website to show up in search engine results pages for voice searches." So, by this definition, which is the generally accepted definition, Voice SEO is the process of updating your website content, your blog content, and so on to "rank better" when someone is doing a voice search v.s. typing your search in a web browser. Blah, just saying that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Feels so opportunistic. Why? Let's see...

Worst investment you can make for your brand?

Now that we know the basics around Voice, Voice Technology, and Voice SEO, let's unpack why investing in Voice Search SEO, and those offering such services, is utter bullshit.

First, in general, there are no "search engine results" when it comes to Voice Search. If you find yourself scrolling search results after asking for something using Voice, I hate to break it to you but all that has happened is that the device has taken what you said, turned your speech to text, and submitted it to a search engine. Just like that, it's like you are searching via a browser just like we've been doing since 1995. If you've been doing your homework related to web SEO and long-tail SEO, you're golden. No further investment is required to "rank better" for Voice Search.

Now getting back to the punchline related to Voice Search I left hanging. The providers - Apple, Amazon, Google, even Samsung, depending on where you live - they are designing and managing the AI that is feeding you the results you're getting back. Ask a general question like "What's the best local Indian restaurant?," and Siri, i.e. Apple, is controlling the results - just like Alexa, i.e. Amazon, and just like your Google Assistant, or Google, is. Understand that the results of asking that question, best local Indian restaurant, is completely controlled by the AI providers.

If Amazon inks a new partnership with Chipotle, you can be sure that when you ask for the best local Mexican restaurant, that Chipotle will be the response. And this situation is possible with all the providers - no matter how much you invest in "Voice Search Optimization." The more general your query, the more control they have over the response. Again, the more general a users question is, the more control over the response is given to the AI provider of the voice assistant.

This is why Voice Search SEO is the worst investment you could ever make.

So how do we REALLY leverage voice to build our brand?

Bring your brand to Voice the right way and skip the general query situation entirely. A user asking for the best local restaurant may get ANY response but a user asking for the day's specials at Lisa's Cantina will always get Lisa's Cantina daily specials.

Brands and businesses need to invest in Voice by investing in dedicated voice applications, or voice experiences, and building awareness around those voice applications so customers become active users.

True Reply helps you launch your voice applications in a fifth the time and a tenth the cost and we make it easy to follow audience building best practices for Voice via real-time insights and real-time engagement management.

So skip the wasted investment in Voice SEO and invest in your own brand with True Reply.

*Actually, the worst investment is doing nothing at all and ignoring Voice all together.